Helping a Teen’s Heart

helping heartFrom the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley, Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D writes about the benefits of adolescents becoming involved in a community service project.  She describes the benefits as not only positive attitudes, but physical improvements, as well:

Compared to the non-volunteers, the students who volunteered showed a steep drop in risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including cholesterol levels and body mass index, at the end of 10 weeks. These benefits were even more pronounced for students whose empathy and altruistic behaviors increased the most and whose negative moods lessened over those 10 weeks. 
happy teenager

Dr. Zakrzewski further describes optimal structures for school-based community volunteering programming.  Direct contact with the population in need provides the adolescent with the best overall positive experience.

For more information, here is her entire article.


How do you become confident?









Taylor Kirkham writes on the website about the power of confidence.

The Power of Confidence
By Taylor Kirkham–It’s human nature to crave feelings of acceptance from our peers. The problem is that we are continuously fed the myth that we’ll gain this approval not by accepting ourselves, but by battling our bodies and tearing our self-image into shreds.
Somehow the dieting industry has convinced even the smartest people that confidence is directly related to your weight loss, your caloric intake, and the number that appears on a scale. This disgusting myth is not only false, but actually has the opposite effect on how we view ourselves on a daily basis. The steps to actually gain confidence couldn’t be farther from the story we have been told since we first were able to read the advertisements on the TV and in store windows.
Confidence is an extremely powerful factor in your appearance. Many people assume that the first thing somebody notices about them is their weight, the clothes they are wearing, or another trivial piece of their appearance. However, I would say that confidence is by far the strongest element of your appearance. People notice if you are proud of yourself, if you stand tall, and ultimately if you feel comfortable in your own skin. They don’t examine you BMI or what type of clothes you are wearing. They don’t estimate your jean size or the number of pounds you lost over the summer. Confidence is the single most attractive feature somebody can obtain, and it holds more power than all of the ridiculous diets we read about combined.
I was not always as confident as I am today, and I thought that the more weight I lost, the more confidence I would gain. However, this myth that the dieting advertisements feed us from a young age couldn’t be farther from the truth. Confidence doesn’t come from shedding some pounds, but rather from when you find the courage to trust yourself and accept yourself for who you are. Even if you don’t feel confident at first, and you have to fake it to you make it, with practice it will come. And it will be AMAZING. P.S. No Diet Needed 🙂

Her thoughts of self-acceptance are so powerful.  What do you think?




Surviving a Sexual Assault: Beautiful Article by Sady Doyle

Sady Doyle writes on about her recovery from the trauma of a sexual assault. The five very different emotional states she cycled through are:

1. Solitude
2. Confusion
3. Pain
4. Being OK

As you read her article, you are able to truly understand the emotional trauma caused by this type of assault. You are also, however, able to believe she really has come through the experience and is OK.

I encourage any trauma survivor to read Sady Doyle’s powerful story.


A Great Web Resource on Teenage Suicide, written by Kurt Cobain’s cousin

Living Matters Website

Bev Cobain’s Living Matters website is an outstanding resource for anyone dealing with youth depression and/or suicide.  Ms. Cobain’s bio from this site reads:

Bev Cobain is a Registered Nurse, with credentials in psychiatric/mental health nursing. Her own struggle with depression and the suicides of three family members–most recently the 1994 death of her young cousin, Kurt Cobain, front man for the band, Nirvana–ignited a passion in Bev to educate professionals, lay persons, and youth about depression and the significant public health issue of suicide. Her desire to educate resulted in her writing the acclaimed book, “When Nothing Matters Anymore: A Survival Guide for Depressed Teens” and developing the Living Matters website site to provide an additional avenue to share her knowledge and experience of youth depression and suicide.

Latest Facts About Teen Suicide

The following statistics will probably surprise you.  Teen suicide is a serious problem in the United States.

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S. for ages 15 through 19.
  • In this country, a child or adolescent dies by suicide every 80 minutes, and a youth attempts to take his/her life every 45 seconds.
  • One of ten high school students attempt suicide, while one in five has had suicidal thoughts within the previous year.
  • The suicide rate for 10 to 14-yr olds has tripled in the last three decades.

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE and help change the current statistics on suicide.  Please take a few minutes to review this list.  If you, your friends, your family, or anyone you know has any of these symptoms, please reach out and share with someone.

Sadness (with or without crying)
Lack of energy and/or motivation
Temper outbursts and/or violent episodes
Easily irritated
Sleeping too little or too much
Little or no appetite, or eating too often
Withdrawal from friends and family
Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed (including school activities)
Feelings of fear (even if there is no conscious reason)
Feelings of extreme guilt or shame
Inability to concentrate
Poor memory
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Worsening grades
Skipping school or classes
Self-critical remarks
Feelings of helplessness to change a situation*
Feelings that things will never get better*
Comment(s) about death or dying*
Writing, drawing, or listening to music about hopelessness, guns, or death*
Threatening suicide (even in a joking manner)*

*These last 5 symptoms should be taken very seriously, do not wait to contact a parent, counselor, teacher, or other trusted adult.  Please let someone know right away.

For immediate help, call National Suicide Hotline Number:  1-800-273-TALK, or 9

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in children can be difficult to diagnose.  Parents often confuse developmentally-appropriate rigid behaviors with OCD behaviors.  The following table (adapted from Freeman and Garcia’s Family based Treatment for Young Children with OCD: Therapist Guide, 2009) may be helpful for parents in differentiating OCD from developmentally appropriate routines.

Photo Courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt

Photo Courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt

Age 1 to 2:  Strong preference for rigid routines around home rituals.  Very aware and can get upset about imperfections in toys and or clothes.

Age 3 to 5:  Repeat same play activity over and over again.

Age 5 to 6:  Keenly aware of the rules of games and other activities and may get upset if rules are altered or broken.

Age 6 to 11:  Engage in superstitious behavior to prevent bad things from happening and may show increased interest in acquiring a collect of objects.

Age 12+  Become easily absorbed in particular activities enjoyed (e.g., video games) or with particualr people (e.g., pop stars); may also show superstitious behavior in relation to making good things happen.  (e.g., performance in sports).

Five ways you can help your teen with PEER pressure

How does Peer Pressure affect your teenager?counseling-adolescents

Adolescents often have several groups and layers of friendships.  They may have a couple of close friends, different larger groups of friends with common interests, and friends who come in and out of their lives.  Friendships during the teenage years tend to be fluid and changing over time.  Teens most often choose to spend time with others of the same age and background and select friends from the same ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Peer friendships can provide some of the most healthy and happy experiences for a teenager.  Strong peer-to-peer relationships help teens develop important skills of communication and compromise.  In a positive environment, adolescent friendships can be one of the most important developmental experiences in your child’s life.

Unfortunately, situations exist where peer influence and peer pressure can lead a teenager to choose unhealthy and unsafe behaviors.  In these cases, parents want to help guide their child to make positive choices.  Some effective strategies recommended by adolescent development experts Dr. B. Bradford Brown and Dr. Laurence Steinberg are:

1.     Nurture your child’s self-esteem.  An adolescent with a positive self-concept and strong since of self worth is less likely to be influenced by outside influences.

2.     Encourage your child to form positive relationships with other adults.  These relationships can help a teen learn good models for healthy relationships.  Encourage your child to spend time with a teacher, counselor, or relative who you believe who be a positive mentor to your child.

3.     Encourage diverse relationships.  Parents who model diverse friend relationships in their own lives help teens learn to do the same.  Encourage your child to create friendships across ethnic, gender, and socio-economic or religious lines.

4.     Teach your child specific skills to make good decisions and resist negative behaviors.  Adolescents need to be taught methods to properly analyze a situation first, and then make a decision.  The most basic concept is the cost vs. benefits analysis.  Teach your child to evaluate the positive outcomes with the negative outcomes of several possible scenarios.  Be specific with respect to consequences for behaviors.

5.     Teach your teen exit strategies and ways to say “no” to negative pressures.  Preparing your teen in advance for ways to deal with specific circumstances will help when they are faced with a “real life” situation.  Role-play examples of common peer pressure moments such as being offered alcohol or drugs.  Help your child prepare positive responses that are comfortable for them.

Remember, peer relationships can be one of the best experiences for your child’s healthy development.  Following the above recommendations will put your child in the best possible position to avoid negative influence and make positive choices.

For more detailed information on the above, consult the following sources:

Brown, B. B. (2004). Adolescents’ relationships with peers. In R. M. Lerner & L. Steinberg (Eds.), Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 363-394). New York: Wiley.

Friendships, cliques, and crowds. In G. R. Steinberg, L. (2005). Adolescence. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.